Mixed response to city road slowdown
By: Joyanne Pursaga
Posted: 4:00 AM CDT Tuesday, Aug. 31, 2021
AMID a persistent lobby to slow down traffic on residential streets, some Winnipeggers are now living on routes with reduced speed limits. And about one month into a one-year pilot project that will test 30-kilometre-per-hour speed zones on four routes which previously had 50 km/h limits, they're sharing a mixed response to the changes.
One resident would prefer the pilot project end now, arguing tax dollars would be better spent on fixing potholes.
"We've got roads we can't drive on and we're spending money on (this)... It's just a gross waste of taxpayers' money, period," said Rick Farley, a Machray Avenue resident.
While supporters of reduced speed limits have long argued the change would make streets safer for vehicles, cyclists and pedestrians, Farley said he's seen very few cyclists and pedestrians on his slowed-down block.
The city says the 30 km/h speed limits were implemented July 26 on Machray (from Fife to Main streets), Powers Street (from Dufferin to Partridge avenues), Eugenie Street (from St. Mary's Road to Youville Street), and Warsaw Avenue (from Thurso Street to Pembina Highway.)
At all four sites, the city has installed new speed signs and speed humps that aim to slow down vehicles. Multiple residents of those streets told the Free Press they welcome the lower speed limit itself.
"I love it... Since the 30 (km/h maximum speed) has been posted, (drivers) don't fly down the street anymore," said Warsaw resident Burton Perry.
Prior to the speed reduction, Perry said Warsaw attracted many commuters seeking to avoid busier routes, a shortcut he thinks the slower speed limit now deters.
However, both Perry and Eugenie Street resident Geoff Ford fear the large speed humps on their streets could create new safety risks. Ford said he fears the raised surface could make speeding cars more likely to lose control and crash into parked vehicles.
"I don't have a problem with a slower speed in residential areas... It's just that speed hump. When some yahoo in the wintertime who's not (using) winter tires is going too fast because they're late (that could prove dangerous)," said Ford.
Warsaw resident Phil Koch is concerned the humps could hinder cyclist travel.
"I'm in favour (of the limit) but I think... they should have made the speed humps so that bikes can navigate without hitting (them)," said Koch.
Warsaw resident Dan Rogers, who relies on cycling as his exclusive mode of transportation, shared only positive views of the reduced speed.
"It just makes (cyclists) feel safe. I think just, in general, the calming of the streets in the neighbourhoods is just very welcome," said Rogers.
Coun. Ross Eadie, whose ward includes the Machray and Powers trial routes, said he has received a few complaints about the speed humps. While Eadie expects the current routes may require some tweaks, he supports the trial as a way to add safe cycling options in his area.
"I thought, let's try to provide a decent space, a safe route for the community," the Mynarski councillor said.
Matt Allard, whose St. Boniface ward contains Eugenie Street, said the pilot is triggering a mixed response from residents so far, though feedback is just beginning to come in.
"Generally, commuters are more opposed to reductions in speeds (than residents of the street)," said Allard.
He and other councillors noted the speed reduction pilot project followed repeated demands from cyclists, safety advocates and other groups to permanently set lower speed limits on residential streets.
"I've never seen such an outcry (before), (such) a demand for slower vehicle speeds on residential streets," said Coun. Janice Lukes, who also supports the project.
Lukes said city council should acknowledge a growing demand to use residential roads for recreation. She believes slower speed limits would make them easier to play on.
"Slowing traffic down on residential streets improves the quality of life in neighbourhoods," said Lukes.
The city's corporate communications department said resident feedback and traffic data gathered from the sites won't be shared until after the one-year pilot project ends. A public report on the trial is expected sometime in Fall 2022.
Winnipeggers bike for the future
Cycling series highlights climate emergency, lack of infrastructure
BY SYDNEY HILDEBRANDT
In light of the climate emergency and the need for improvements to local
active transportation infrastructure, a group of Winnipeggers are cycling
across the city this summer and fall.
The first Bike for the Future event, organized by Bike Winnipeg, took place
Aug. 15 and began at Norquay Community Centre in North Point Douglas. A
squad of cyclists spent the afternoon traversing North End streets.
“We’ve organized this ride to encourage the (City of Winnipeg) to invest
more money in active transportation infrastructure, and to work on lowering
speed limits to make riding in our residential neighbourhoods more
comfortable for people of all ages and abilities,” organizer Ian Walker
“I’ve been an advocate with Bike Winnipeg for about a decade, and the
city’s done some really good work over the years investing in separated
infrastructure and creating these open streets and lowering speed limits.”
However, there’s still room for improvement, Walker said. In some areas the
lack of infrastructure forces cyclists onto sidewalks — which could result
in a fine — or into dangerous situations on the roads.
Winnipeg police issued 87 tickets to cyclists riding on the sidewalk in
2020 — more than double the 43 tickets issued in 2019, as reported last
month by the Winnipeg Free Press. This year, police have handed out around
38 tickets, each $113.
Walker, a St. Boniface resident, said he himself has never been ticketed or
hit by a car while cycling.
“I’ve noticed that a lot of the tickets that are being given out are in the
north end of the city,” he said.
“It’s really unfair, because there aren’t any good alternatives for folks
that are using the sidewalk. People naturally want to go to the sidewalk
because being on a road with fast moving cars is uncomfortable. I’ve been
riding a bike for decades and I still don’t like riding in traffic,
especially with my kids. It’s bananas.”
Ashley Challinor and Will Prosper recently moved from Toronto to the
Broadway-Assiniboine neighbourhood. Challinor is an “avid cyclist” while
Prosper just adopted the mode of transportation after moving to Winnipeg.
“I felt a little bit more safe here than I did back home,” Prosper admitted.
“Winnipeg actually has a fair amount of pretty good cycling
infrastructure,” Challinor said.
“Its problem is connection. So there’s little bits here and there, but
there isn’t one big connected network. And that really makes it hard to
commute on a bicycle, or to go run errands on a bicycle … Toronto’s a bit
better about those direct connections, but it also has a lot of room for
Winnipeg is currently working on a number of active transportation
connectivity projects, including the North Winnipeg Parkway. The new
corridor will connect The Forks to Chief Peguis Trail with a path along the
Red River, through Point Douglas and segments of St. John’s and Seven Oaks.
Phase 1 began last month. The final phase is scheduled for mid-2022.
Elmwood resident Emma Durand-Wood said active transportation infrastructure
is an important component to climate justice, which is why she decided to
participate in Bike for the Future.
“I think this summer has really kind of hit home that climate change is
actually upon us. And I already am someone who bikes a lot for
transportation, so it’s really made me think a lot about (how) we need to
be acting right now … to make biking more safe and appealing and an
attractive option, a real option.”
Follow Bike Winnipeg on social media for updates on the Bike for the Future
Boulevard, greenway could be renamed by end of year
BISHOP Grandin Boulevard and the greenway that runs parallel to it — both
of which are named after an architect of the residential school system —
could have new titles before the end of the year.
The volunteer board that oversees the greenway’s operations issued a notice
this week to inform community members of its ongoing support for the City
of Winnipeg’s efforts to explore cutting ties with Bishop Vital-Justin
Grandin (1829-1902) as a namesake for local landmarks.
The board indicated renaming consultations are underway and it anticipates
a report with a recommendation on the subject will be brought forward to
city council this fall.
“I don’t want people to think we’re sitting on our hands and letting this
fall by the wayside,” said Derick Young, president of Bishop Grandin
“There is a great deal of concern among some people in the community about
the name and I think most people, not just in St. Vital, recognize that we
need to deal with, as a country, our history of the residential schools and
the legacy of people who were involved.”
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission concluded that Grandin, a Roman
Catholic priest, “led the campaign for residential schooling.”
The commission’s final report outlines in detail Grandin’s idea to create
boarding schools that would convert Indigenous children into Christians and
his success in securing federal funding to make his pitch a reality.
The bishop once wrote, “To become civilized they should be taken with the
consent of their parents and made to lead a life different from their
parents and cause them to forget the customs, habits and language of their
Not long after the remains of 215 children were found in unmarked graves
near a residential school site in Kamloops, outrage about the senseless
death, abuse and intergenerational trauma caused by Grandin’s beliefs
prompted demands to rename local landmarks.
First Nations leaders and concerned citizens have spoken out in favour of
removing his name from the boulevard and greenway in south Winnipeg.
Others, however, want to leave the existing signage up and add markers that
acknowledge his role in setting up the assimilative school system.
A Probe Research poll conducted in the spring found 55 per cent of
Winnipeggers are in favour of renaming the boulevard because of Grandin’s
role in the residential school system.
The survey, which took place June 2-11 with a random and representative
sampling size of 600 adults, found 28 per cent of respondents were in
favour of keeping the road’s name and educating the public on Grandin.
A total of 17 per cent of those surveyed indicated they wanted to keep the
name as is.
Young said it’s likely new names will be chosen in the coming weeks — an
announcement he expects will be met with enthusiasm by road and path users;
the greenway, which includes community gardens and trails, is accessed by
hundreds of people daily in the summer.
Once names are approved, there will be discussions about costs related to
the logistics of renaming, including updating the title of the greenway
board and installing new trailhead signs.
maggie.macintosh(a)freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @macintoshmaggie
An urbanist view of Toronto's initiatives to designate streets for
pedestrians and cyclists instead of cars.
When Rob Ford was mayor of Toronto, he mastered the low art of the
catchphrase. Stopping "the gravy train" played to the idea that city
government was all bloat, all the time. "Subways, subways, subways" was a
promise of more expensive underground transit, rather than less-costly,
on-road light rail, in low-density Scarborough. None of this was rooted in
reality or good public policy, but that wasn't the point - stirring up
resentment among suburban voters was the point.
By that measure, Mr. Ford's most resonant slogan was his claim that the city
had declared a "war on the car." Streetcars and (a very few) bike lanes were
making the city impassable for humble drivers, he claimed. (The mayor got
around in a black Cadillac Escalade.) This mantra was no truer than his
other mantras, but it stuck in the urban hive mind.
The chaotic Ford years can seem like a distant memory for Canada's largest
city - now run by the conservatively progressive John Tory - but their
spirit has never really gone away. Rob's brother Doug is, of course,
Premier. His nephew, Michael, occupies the family seat on city council,
representing Etobicoke North. And road rage still fuels Toronto politics.
Consider Michael Ford's latest campaign to end one of the best things to
happen in the city during the pandemic. Last summer, a program called
ActiveTO removed cars from a few major roads on weekends, including parts of
the pseudo-highway Lake Shore Boulevard, to allow people more space to bike,
walk and get outside. The city resumed the program this summer - grudgingly,
with fewer, shorter and less frequent closings.
The concept, even in its truncated form, attracts tens of thousands of
cyclists and pedestrians to its most popular routes.
Yes, it can slow drive times on some adjacent streets - as do the scores of
restaurant patios that have taken over chunks of road across the city - but
that's a small price for briefly making Toronto feel like something more
than a grid of commuter arteries.
Enter Councillor Ford. He wants to end ActiveTO's road closings, which he
says are creating a "mass amount of congestion" for drivers. The young
dynast hasn't revived his late uncle's "war on the car" trope and sounds
pleasant and reasonable in interviews. But he is every bit as wrong when he
places the convenience of motorists above the interests of other city
residents, and the needs of people passing through a neighbourhood over
those actually living there.
Let's review the arguments. Mr. Ford is right that some ActiveTO road
closures have increased congestion. City figures point to longer travel
times on the Gardiner Expressway during some weekends when Lake Shore West
was closed. Even if drivers themselves have some responsibility here -
ActiveTO has been a fact for two summers running; pick another route! - of
course being stuck in traffic is annoying.
Far less persuasive is the notion that cyclists have other options. Mr. Ford
suggests they try the waterfront Martin Goodman Trail, as though it wasn't
already so crowded as to be the site of narrowly averted Tour de
France-style pile-ups every weekend from May to October. The pandemic has
revealed the pent-up desire for places to stroll and pedal, in a city centre
with few green spaces, and little room for modes of transport that aren't
motorized. The city says that 34,000 cyclists and 5,000 pedestrians used
Lake Shore West on one day in May when it was closed to car traffic. That's
more than the number of cars and trucks using it on the average weekend day.
The difference is, when cyclists feel congested or unsafe by a lack of road
space, they stay home - or they drive. Cycling congestion is thousands of
people invisibly at home or behind the wheel, not cycling. By taking a small
amount of road space from cars, a few days a month, ActiveTO has shown that
Toronto has been in the throes of a silent, years-long cycling traffic jam.
Where the campaign against ActiveTO really founders, though, is on
philosophical ground. Mr. Ford believes saving a few minutes of drive-time
for a few thousand drivers is worth depriving the city of new, much-needed
space for safe recreation. But the places where we live are more than just
spaces to drive through. If you wanted to boil the issue down to a Fordian
slogan, urbanists have one ready-made: "Cities are for people."